MECA has been described as the “anchor of the arts district” by former Portland Mayor Michael Brennan. Over the last five years, Don’s tenure as President of the College has resulted in a number of achievements, both academically and with regard to MECA’s facilities, including:
- MECA’s enrollment has grown to almost 500 students in the BFA, MFA, and MAT programs.
- MECA has a strong Continuing Studies enrollment of over 1,200 students of all ages.
- Construction of Karu Media Center on the third floor of Porteous, MECA’s flagship building, which houses administrative staff, classrooms and studios.
- Redesigned and expanded Woodworking & Furniture Program.
- Public Engagement added as a Minor.
- MECA Cafe expanded.
- Miles Standish Residence Hall added.
- Textile and Fashion Design major established through a transformative gift from Roxanne Quimby
- Artists at Work program space developed on the first floor.
- MECA’s Master of Art in Teaching (MAT) accredited as a new master’s program.
- Transformative gift of $3M from the Bob Crewe Foundation to redesign the lower level of Porteous and create the Bob Crewe Program in Art and Music.
- Writing Minor added.
- Strategic Plan completed, including a newly developed mission, vision and core values.
- Strategic fundraising underway to raise the endowment to provide more scholarships for students and renovate the first floor lobby and building facade.
Don grew up in Hazel Park, Michigan on the north side of Detroit. Both his parents stressed hard work and education. After high school, Don went to Olivet College to study biology and play basketball and became interested in anthropology. Understanding different perspectives is a hallmark of anthropology and something that still serves him very well as a college president. Don received his BA in biology from Olivet College in 1985 and his MA (1988) and Ph.D. (1998) in Anthropology from Michigan State University.
Don Tuski has been involved in higher education since his undergraduate days. He has been a soccer coach, residence hall director, professor, dean, and president. While in graduate school, Don focused on education and politics for his MA degree and deindustrialization in the midwest for his Ph.D. As he finished his doctorate, Don grew more and more involved in college administration at Olivet, becoming Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs, then Dean and Vice President of Academic Affairs, Acting President, and, finally, President.
Throughout his career, Don has encouraged all employees, including faculty and staff, to be viewed and to view themselves as educators, centered around the idea that while in college, “everything” is the curriculum. Besides the more formal curriculum, students learn from their full range of experience and thus all employees contribute to that process, from student life to tuition payment. The engagement of students as active and equal participants in college policy development carried over into his teaching. It always made more sense to Don to see and treat students with respect and trust. Collaborating with students and allowing them to help shape class requirements, while showing a strong commitment to each and every student, helps them reach their full potential. Don’s dedication to student-centered teaching and learning remains strong at Maine College of Art, where he continues to teach anthropology. One of the main reasons Don has chosen to stay in higher education is the energy and forward thinking of students, which makes for a tremendous work and learning environment.
During Don’s tenure as president at Olivet, the enrollment grew from 759 in 2001 to 1,147 in 2009 with an increase in selectivity. At the same time, fundraising was focused on improving better scholarships and facilities. Don was directly involved in raising over $22M, which provided support for a new events center; auditorium; chemistry and physics lab; smart classrooms; football field and track; housing; and an art building.
After almost 30 years at Olivet College as a student, staff member, coach, dean, and president, Don decided to take on another challenge at a very different school in a very different place. In 2010, he applied and was chosen to be the new president at Maine College of Art. Although not a practicing artist himself, Don had studied painting and he had always been immersed in the arts; his son, Ian, is a classical guitarist, and his daughter, Kenna, is a professional dancer. Being a big collector of old wood, tools, and ladders, as well as a few old sailboats, made the transition to Maine quite easy and enjoyable. There is a forward-looking spirit about the environment and the arts that makes Maine very special and which strongly appealed to Don and his family.
Don continues to be involved in a number of organizations related to higher education such as Maine Campus Compact, the Association of Governing Boards, and the Maine Higher Education Commission. Don is also a member of the Portland Rotary and the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce. While not at MECA, Don likes to do a little sailing in Casco Bay and organize his old wood.